Australian military to train puppet Iraqi army


After having contributed several thousand troops to assist the criminal US-led invasion of Iraq and then rapidly scaling down the number of Australian Defence Force personnel in Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard's government now is considering increasing the ADF's role in the brutal US attempt to suppress the Iraqi people's resistance to the looting by US corporations of their country's oil wealth.

While visiting the Pentagon, defence minister Robert Hill told ABC Radio on November 18 that the federal Coalition government was "considering" sending "a few dozen" military advisers and trainers to help the US create an Iraqi puppet army. At the moment, there about 300 defence personnel in Iraq, giving logistical support to the US occupation forces.

The proposal for the ADF to send military advisers and trainers had been supported by the ALP before it was announced by Hill. In a November 15 ABC television interview, Labor foreign affairs spokesperson Kevin Rudd called for an increased ADF role in training an Iraqi puppet security force, providing this did not involve any increase in the total number of defence personnel in or near Iraq.

"All people of goodwill — whether they are from this country or Europe or elsewhere — now have got a responsibility to put their shoulder to the wheel and try and build a new Iraq", Rudd declared.

Foreign minister Alexander Downer immediately highlighted the ALP's inconsistency. "This is an extraordinary thing for the Labor Party where its leader thinks we should have no troops in Iraq and the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, who's just been to Iraq, thinks we should be sending extra troops there to provide training. This is a complete backflip from Labor's earlier position."

Rudd responded that he wasn't calling for more Australian troops to be sent to Iraq, but for a change in the ADF's role in the US-led occupation, with more emphasis on training Washington's planned "Iraqi" army.

Labor, of course, made its "backflip" many months ago: As soon as the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, which Labor said it opposed, began, the ALP announced it would not be calling for the withdrawal of Australian troops from the subsequent, equally illegal, occupation.

Both Howard and Crean know that any suggestion of a substantial increase in size of the Australian military contingent in Iraq, and particularly any suggestion that they play a direct combat role in the increasingly bloody Iraq conflict, would produce a potentially damaging voter backlash.

With a federal election less than year away, neither Labor nor the Coalition wants to be seen as supporting increased Australian involvement in Washington's new Vietnam War.

At the same time, both of them want to be seen as reliable imperialist allies of the great imperial overlord in Washington in its drive to establish a politically stable pro-US Iraqi regime that will legitimise the US corporate takeover of Iraq's oil wealth — a regime which US viceroy Paul Bremer openly declares will be based on "American values".

For Howard this means openly backing Washington's war in Iraq — and being hailed as its South Pacific "man of steel" — while avoiding putting Australian troops directly in the firing line.

For Crean, on the other hand, this means agreeing with the stated reason for the US invasion of Iraq — disarming Saddam Hussein's regime of its non-existent weapons of mass destruction — but disagreeing with the way it was carried out, while supporting Howard's policy of Australian non-combat collaboration with the US occupation.

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From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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